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Westminster View - April 2019

April. In All Fools` month Ukraine elects a comedian as its President, Spain elects its first fascists since Franco, the UK is set to elect temporary Members of the European Parliament, TIG changes to Change, Farridge resurrects `New UKIP` under the guise of Brexit, Brexit is delayed until Hallowee`n the Speaker`s departure is delayed until Brexit ,` Nancy` Mogg, Jake`s little sister, joins the Brexit Party, Dancing Widdecombe fair joins the Brexit Party, Oliver `The Lord Protector` Letwin and Mrs. Ed Balls bid to take over Commons business, Red Jerry stumbles over the `People`s Vote` and the Cabinet is leaking like the proverbial sieve. London`s Taxi Drivers, who have recently been bringing Parliament Square to a standstill, complain that Extinction Rebellion Climate Change campaigners have brought Parliament Square to a standstill, The Tramp is set to make a `T-Day` State Visit to some of his several United Kingdom golf courses, Mr. Julian `Wicked Leaks` Assange is booted out of the Ecuadorian embassy and is now awaiting extradition to the United States in a prisoner exchange with The Tramp presumably, `Anyone But Boris` heads the Tory Leadership-after-Theresa campaign,Our Lady of Paris burns during Holy Week, the New IRA kills again in The Creggan, and Easter Sunday Murderers kill hundreds in Sri Lanka. Even Her Maj, who has celebrated her 93rd Birthday, God Bless Her, has not `seen it all before`.

 

I don`t make a song and dance about this but I lead the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I appreciate that anything with the word `Europe` in it causes some to reach immediately for the cross and garlic but the PACE is not the European Union It is, in Britain, a sadly well- guarded secret but The Council of Europe was founded after the war by Winston Churchill and others as an antidote to any future Holocaust, to the rise of communism and to the resurgence, ever, of fascism. It has grown from a handful of founding nations to, now, forty-seven member states that stretch from Azerbaijan in the East to the Atlantic coast in the West and from the Mediterranean to the arctic circle. It embraces the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission and the OSCE and the PACE and its six hundred –plus Members of Parliament meets four times a year, for a week at a time in Strasbourg and its committees meet variously in dedicated offices in Paris and otherwise throughout the member states on an occasional basis. Until the annexation of Crimea and their adventures in the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine Russia was a financially and politically fully contributing participant. You cannot, though, allow members of the club to slice off bits of other members` turf with impunity so following the Crimean excursion the Parliamentary Assembly stripped Ivan of his voting rights and the Russian Federation, while remaining a member of the ruling Committee of Ministers, took their bat and ball away. They also, nearly two years ago, took away a legally-binding contribution of many tens of millions of euros.

 

Rather than  restructuring the organisation and cutting out tranches of very considerable waste and unnecessary activity (well, this is a European institution) to reflect reduced income the Secretary General, who in a previous incarnation was briefly a less-than-successful Norwegian Prime Minister, ignored warnings and has  instead operated on the principle that `we can fund the shortfall out of cashflow` and that `something will turn up`. Nearing the end of his term of office and facing the fact that the Council of Europe is about to hit the economic buffers the SG is now being held to ransom by a Russian Federation that will pay its dues if it is allowed back into the PACE without any sanctions and having made no concessions on Crimea, The Donbas,  territory seized in Georgia or Moldova or to a dreadful record back home that drives a coach-and-horses through the European Convention on Human Rights to which Russia is  a signatory.

 

I spent three months, following the removal of my Spanish predecessor who was a man with a` chequered history`, as the Acting President of The PACE and three days (the shortest in its history) as its actual President while overseeing the election of my successor. It is an institution for which I have some residual affection and I and all of my British member colleagues that have spent some time attending a plenary session of the PACE in Strasbourg this month resent, on a collegiate and cross-party basis, the fact that the Secretary General, with some support from the current President of the Assembly , is now seeking to sell out its’ principles in the interests of thirty million euros of silver. Vladimir Putin understands weakness and he understands the force of blackmail. If the PACE capitulates to bullying now then I fear that the Council of Europe will be terminally diminished.

 

Which brings me in a very roundabout way to the Presidential elections in Ukraine, the defeat of President Poroshenko and the endorsement by, an overwhelming popular majority, of Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political satirist, as the new Head of State. Like many former Soviet- controlled countries Ukraine has been raddled with corruption on an industrial scale. The cult of the Oligarch, made in Moscow, is pervasive throughout much of the old Red Empire and Mr.Zelensky has been propelled into office on a pledge to both sort out Russian intrusion into his country and to root out those who are creaming off the boodle while wrecking the Ukrainian economy to the detriment of those millions who have just elected him. How Comrade Vlad and the Kremlin will react to this turn of events is as yet uncertain . Will the spirit of The Maidan triumph after all? Or will Volodymyr go native like so many others and succumb to the perks of office however briefly that office may be held? Time will tell but in the meantime there are still some countries and some members within the Council of Europe that, in its seventieth anniversary year, will continue to try to hold the line and to fight for what is right and just and honest rather than that which is self-serving and expedient.

 

To say that `the jackboots are again marching across Europe` might be a tad melodramatic but it is not very far removed from the absolute truth. The rise of what are now euphemistically known as `sovereignist` parties continues as exemplified by the results of the recent elections in Spain. While the socialists made some modest gains they remain without an overall majority and are faced with the prospect of having to harness the support of Catalan separatists and others to form a minority government. It is, though, the election of some twenty members of the Vox party that ought to send shivers through the effete salons of Brussels. For the first time since the days of General Franco the hard right will be strolling through Madrid`s corridors of power. Those footsteps will echo the Sweden Democrats, Italy`s La Liga, Germany`s Alternatif fur Deutchland, Marine le Pen`s re-branded Front National in France, Viktor Orban`s administration in Hungary and of course UKIP and now the new sanitised `Brexit Party` in our own dear Motherland as well as others that are emerging across the continent.  Come the European elections I fear , and I say this with abhorrence and no satisfaction whatsoever, that the self-satisfied liberal socialist elite that currently controls the European Parliament will be in for a rude awakening. It is a huge sadness that the failure of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to pass Theresa May`s hard-won Withdrawal Agreement in timely fashion is likely to lead to participation in elections that will contribute to a growing cacophony of xenophobia.

 

It has become very clear that there is no majority in the House of Commons for any of the proposed solutions to the Brexit issue. The Prime Minister`s Withdrawal Agreement has now failed to secure sufficient support on multiple occasions and an attempt by Oliver `The Lord Protector` Letwin, former Cabinet Office Minister, and others to secure, through a series of `indicative votes`, an acceptable way forward only served to reveal the gulf that divides Members of Parliament on each and every offered alternative from Hard Brexit through a Customs Union and soft Brexit to no Brexit at all. Where Government has failed Parliament has failed also. An attempt to secure a further round of `indicative votes` resulted in a rare tied vote ( The last was over the Maastricht Treaty in 1993) and the requirement on the part of the Speaker to cast his support in favour of the status quo – so no more futile indications. The demise of the indicative votes process and the defeat of his own preferred `Norway Plus` motion led to the resignation from the Conservative Party of the Member for Grantham, Nick Boles. Margaret Thatcher, a previous Grantham girl, must be spinning in her urn. The one measure that was carried, by 313 votes to 312 with the backing of Remainer Tories, was the`Cooper-Boles` bill to strike out the possibility of a No Deal Brexit and this was swiftly sent off to the Lords for ratification in an unseemly haste to which their Lordships rightly but to no avail objected.

 

Following a seven-hour Cabinet meeting, devoid of mobile phones and sustained only by coffee and sandwiches, The Darling Bud determined to engage in talks with Comrade Corbyn to see if there is any common ground that might deliver official Labour Party support where insufficient is forthcoming from her own backbenches. Given Corbyn`s own `red lines`, which include a Customs Union that Mrs May has definitively ruled out and a firm commitment to enshrine Workers` Rights in law, together with his Party`s determination to secure a `People`s Vote` or second referendum, it is hard to see that much headway in this direction can be made but at the time of writing talks continue and leaked reports suggest that some progress has been achieved.  Not surprisingly many Tories, including some Cabinet Ministers, are hugely wary of this process and it will be a fine irony if, having rejected the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by their own Prime Minister, the Hard Brexiteers find themselves facing a watered down agreement carried with the support of the Labour Party and in spite of them.

 

By a majority of just one vote the House  agreed to apply to extend Article 50 and, therefore, the time available in which to further seek to reach a deal. This in turn led to a flurry of speculation and diplomatic activity with the Prime Minister racketing off to Germany and France to seek support for a short period of grace before having another shot at reaching an agreement in Parliament. President Macron, who clearly regards the UK as a threat to the European, for which read `his`, project, was reported to want Britain to crash out of the EU on April 12th and to flounder in our own juice without a deal. At the other end of the spectrum Mutti Merkel appeared to favour a short extension while other EU leaders pitched for  very much longer extension than Mrs. May was actually seeking or wanted – presumably in the hope that if the process dragged out interminably we might end up not leaving at all. At the European Council summit the dates discussed were the end of June, the end of December and March 2020 all of which require the United Kingdom to participate in the European Elections at considerable cost, to no useful purpose and with consequential impact upon other countries to whom our allocation of seats had already been distributed. Nobody wants it but it is almost certain that that is what will now happen. The extended date has been fixed at 31st October which appropriately or otherwise is Hallowe`en and the Prime Minister has secured the option of an earlier departure if achievable.

 

Now in brief and in haste because the local government elections, of which more in the May ‘ View’ ,and a seminar with the Venice Commission in Lund (Sweden)  intervened and if this does not get completed it will soon be June, in other news......

 

Holy Week and Easter was not  good for the Christian church. The conflagration of Notre  Dame, the spiritual heart of Paris, was both awesome and awful as it unfolded in real time on our screens. Such is the power of modern communication that we sat transfixed as the great spire fell and those of us who, for business or pleasure, visit the capital of France on a regular basis felt the pain of our French friends as their iconic masterpiece appeared to be reduced to rubble. In fact, thanks to the incroyable bravery of four hundred Parisian firefighters and dozens of courageous volunteers led by Fr. Jean- Mark Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris fire brigade, many of the most sacred artefacts including the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament were, as we now know, whisked away from the flames and the great twin towers that house the bells were saved as was much of the stone exterior perimeter wall. Vast sums of money has been pledged to secure the restoration of the cathedral and it is facile to suggest as some have that  ‘ we ought to be spending the money on other more worthwhile causes’. The fact is that the hard cash that has been offered has been pledged for a very specific purpose and would simply not be  made available to ‘ feed the poor in Africa’ or whatever other equally worthy project demands funding . If I wanted to be churlish, which of course I do not, I would suggest that President Mekon’s assertion that ‘ we will rebuild Notre Dame within five years’  is, unless it is going to be a botched job, more than a little cavalier with the actualite and more geared to populist European electoral politics than any reality.  We have a very dear Spanish friend who is at present working on the stained glass of the windows in Canterbury cathedral. Fernando  has been at it for about four years already and there is no end in sight. An edifice that has taken many hundreds of years of craftsmanship to create cannot , I would respectfully suggest to the President of the Gauls, be put back together in half a decade. Nevertheless it is a job that has to be done and I do not  doubt that  in the fullness of realistic time and with the blessing  of the  good Lord it will be achieved.

 

As a footnote we should not, I suppose, be surprised that the Salford Broadcasting Corporation, in sharp contrast to the Independent television channels, managed to cover the fire while avoiding the mention of Christianity, Holy Week or Catholicism!

 

Easter Sunday brought terror to the churches and hotels of Sri Lanka . A country that is even now still recovering from both civil war and the Tsunami was ripped apart by what appear to have been Daesh- backed suicide bombers that hit three places of Christian worship and three hotels frequented by Western tourists and were clearly targeted to hit both faith  and the economy simultaneously. Hundreds, including some holiday making Britons , were killed or maimed and it was in short order that the political recriminations and accusations of warnings first given on April 4th  and ignored began .The toll in life has been truly dreadful. The political repercussions in a Country that has been enjoying an at best fragile renaissance of democracy may be felt for years to come.

 

In Derry, in Northern Ireland, the journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in cold blood while observing a demonstration in the Creggan. The ‘  New IRA’ claimed responsibility for this ‘ accident’ implying that she got in the way of a bullet  that was not intended for her. At Lyra’s funeral the priest, Father Martin McGill , in the presence of Theresa May, Leo Varadkar and other political leaders, inquired why it took the death of an innocent young woman to unite politicians. If the  renewed round of power- sharing talks promised by the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic  lead to  a resumption of devolved administration then perhaps the death will not have been entirely in vain.

 

In the context of these International events the antics of the ‘ Extermination  Rebellion’ hordes of Climate Change Waitrose Warriors seems almost risible. Central London was, for some days, paralysed by those who found it their bounden duty to park a pink yacht at Cambridge Circus, turn Waterloo Bridge into a middle- class non- workers’ picnic area complete with potted  trees  and shrubs and to clog up Parliament Square while Parliament was in recess. It commenced at the  end of the Parliamentary session when a gaggle of protestors stripped off and endeavoured to glue their naked backsides to the glass that separates the public gallery in the House from the Chamber full of Great Men discussing affairs of State below. This exercise, which took place during the Indicative Votes debate and was described by the tabloids predictably as ‘ a bum deal’, attracted the inevitable and presumably desired publicity but was not a pretty sight. Once the statutory ‘ celebrities’ had added to the carbon footprint by jetting into  the UK, speaking from their populist platforms and jetting  out again and the `Swedish Schoolgirl` Greta Thunberg had accused us all of being* liars before,I trust departing* for Scandinavia on her tricycle, the good burghers of London, now allowed to return to their lawful places  of work, were left to pick up the tab and the thousands of plastic water bottles and other detritus that  our  friendly champagne socialist visitors left behind them.

 

Let’s be clear about this: climate change is a serious issue and it may surprise ‘ real people’ To know that those of us in the House of Commons have young children and grandchildren and that we care equally passionately about the world that we are going to bequeath to them . It is for that reason that we are pursuing, as rapidly  as achievable, measures that are  practicable, workable, affordable and publicly acceptable to reduce our own carbon emissions and to persuade other nations to follow example.

 

While the Prime Minister is trying to square, with no majority or any form of parliamentary support for any one course of action, the impossible circle   that is Brexit there are those within the Conservative party that are obsessed with the idea that a change of Leader will   solve all of the Country’s problems and that under a new more pro- Brexit occupant of Number  10 Brussels will roll over, put its paws in the air and offer Britain a vastly improved Withdrawal Agreement. In fact, of course, we know that that is wholly disingenuous and the real reason for this activity is founded solely in base personal ambition. To this end the ‘ unicorn dreamers’ want to change the rules . At present Members of the Parliamentary Party are required to submit just two names from the field of prospective leadership candidates  to the Party membership for a vote and final decision. Given the massive and.well- founded antipathy towards Mayor.  Boris  in the House and the likihood that he will not make  the final  cut the Johnson- backers want to extend the shortlist to four in the possibility that the ‘ grassroots’, who are not wholly appraised of his weaknesses and who regard him as a vote- winning’ cheeky chappie ‘,  will hand him the keys to Downing Street. Fortunately the executive of the 1922 committee,custodians of the rulebook, have to date resisted both this  proposal and an attempt to permit a further no- confidence vote in the Prime Minister’s leadership .In the meantime a growing list of hopefuls is busy wooing back- bench MPs with promises of advancement on the offchance  that they might either snaffle the top job themselves or a the very least emerge as a ‘ kingmaker ’ and secure a plum role in a new administration. Just what the nation needs at what might be reasonably be described as a time  of constitutional crisis .

 

We are not alone in our grief. Red Jerry is beset by a party that wants the second referendum or’ people’s vote’ that he is determined to resist. He also has other devils on his back. Following the ejection, from the Ecuadorean embassy in London , of that country’s Celebrated asylum  seeker Mr . Julian ‘ WikiLeaks’  Assange there is the prospect that once Assange has done time in Britain  for jumping bail he may be extradited to either the United States, who would like to  do him over for treason, or to Sweden where  there are  still those who believe that he should face rape charges . Ecuador’s Ambassador may have had enough of his ‘ discourteous and aggressive’ guest but Comrade Corbyn does not share the popular view that Mr, Assange should face justice outside the United Kingdom. Then there is the small matter of the State Visit, at the invitation of Her Maj, of the President of the United States of America. The Tramp and Melanie, planning to be on this side of The Pond for the anniversary of the D- Day landings in an endeavour to polish the Commander- in Chief’s non- existent military credentials, will sadly not be able to stay in Buck House. The replacement  of just about every water closet in the palace has, you see, limited the amount of accommodation available . Mr President and his First Lady will, however, be treated to a State Banquet to which Mr. Corbyn would ordinarily be invited in his role as Leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. Red Jerry has, however, made it plain that while he is prepared to break bread with the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah he does not wish to share even a very long dining table with the Head  of State of our oldest and closest ally.

 

The Tramp, in the meantime, is still bobbing around in the wake of the Moeller inquiry which, depending upon which version; you read, either did or did not exonerate him from fraternising with  the Russians during* the Presidential election campaign. He is now  waiting to find out whether or not he will face impeachment at the hands of the Democrats. The fact that Sir David Attenborough, our  three- hundred- and ten year old National Treasure, has described him as ‘ bad for the environment ‘ is possibly the least of his worries. He has probably been too busy pondering upon what  Vlad Putin has been discussing while swapping tea sets and swords with Kim Jong Un.

 

At the month’s end former Tory Minister and Stictly Come Dancing star AnnWiddecome joined The Farridge’s Brexit Party and was expelle£ from the Conservatives of which she has been a lifelong member: Lord Ashcroft publishes evidence revealing that South Africa is engaged in the revolting practice of ‘ canned hunting’ in which near- tame lions are murdered in the interests of ‘ trophy killing’ by those with more money than sense or morals: Natural England, in panic, has rescinded the licences that allow those controlling ‘ birds of pest’ to legitimately cull predatory crows and the like; a row breaks out over proposed  police requirements for alleged rape victims to hand over their mobile phones in what are dubbed ‘ digital strip searches’ : there are massive jitters over the possible results of the forthcoming Council elections; and the ‘ watertight’ and highly secretive  National Security Committee leaks like a sieve as proposals to allow the Chinese firm Huawei to participate in the construction of the UK’s 5G network  are published by The Daily Torygraph  generating an internal inquiry by the Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill.

 

Ballswatch

 

Research by The John Lewis Partnership  has revealed that parents are now rejecting the ‘ blue for a boy, pink for a girl’ colou4 regime I; favour of gender- neutral grey.

 

Virgin Atlantic are replacing their Vargas- inspired ‘ Flying Lady’ emblems  featuring young ladies in white boots and leotards on the A350-1000 fleet in favour  of ‘ modern Britain`, designs featuring Asian, black male and black women ( Daley, Zadie and Oscar) .

 

The European Parliament has infuriated inhabitants of The Rock by describing Gibraltar as ` ‘a Colony of Britain’

 

The Tramp has announced that he will `place a man on Mars by 2033` in an echo of JFK’s ‘We choose to go to the moon speech’ and the first Apollo moon landing in 1972

 

 

The Civil Service, reeling under Brexit-induced stress, is to employ the attentions of a `virtual dog`.  The synthetic canine is designed to relieve the pressures of the many thousands of `conversations` in which Whitehall is now engaged.  What is probably needed is a beast with virtual bite.

 

The Royal Mail gets its man – eventually. A Christmas card has just arrived three months late in St. Helens, on the Isle of Wight, having been inadvertently mis-directed to St. Helena,  the Atlantic home-in-exile of Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

The Waitrose original designs for Easter ducks were for Crispy (milk chocolate) Fluffy (white chocolate) and Ugly (dark chocolate). The latter was deemed racist and had to be redesigned and repackaged.

 

Channel 4 News broadcast, on March 29th, their veteran journalist Jon Snow who, covering a pro-Brexit rally, was careless enough to observe that `I`ve never seen so many white people in one place`. Following 2644 complaints OFCOM is now investigating

 

.A head teacher in Walsall, Staffordshire, has found it necessary to hire a `nappy changer` for five year olds whose parents have failed to potty-train them before sending them to school. An increase in 70% of such pupils since 2011 has led to the assertion that “school readiness is not a priority for vulnerable families”.

 

Six months after the Home Secretary approved the use of cannabis for clearly defined  medical purposes not one patient has received this treatment from the NHS. “swift action” has succumbed to “a need to build an evidence base”.  How?

 

Imported `Three Nut Butter` made of Walnuts, Pecans and Peanuts has been withdrawn from sale because the allergy warning on the back label is written in Dutch. Might not the clue just be found in the name of the product?

 

“We will celebrate Saint George`s Day with a new bank holiday” tweets the Labour Party. On April 22nd. Oops.

 

“God bless it and all who sail in it” doesn`t have quite the right ring about it, does it? The Scottish Maritime Museum has found it necessary to resort to `gender-neutral` naming because `some very expensive signs` were being vandalised by gender obsessives. And this has generated a degree of hurrumphing that has carried the length of Whitehall from Admiralty Arch to the House of Lords. Lord West of Spithead, former First Sea Lord, is not amused. And what are we going to do about all those buxom figureheads?

 

And a cat flap with the name “Larry” on a brass plate now adorns the front entrance to Ten Downing Street.

(Daily Mail –April fool).

 

Valete

 

Bibi Andersen (83) will be remembered for the Ingmar Bergman films of the 50s, 60s and 70s. The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Passions of Anna and, in English and co-starring Elliot ` The Untouchables` Gould, The Touch. She also made I never promised you a rose garden in Hollywood in 1977

 

Guy Webster (79) was the photographer who created record album covers for the stars. The Stones, The Doors, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel and Barry `The Eve of Destruction` McGuire all received the Webster treatment.

 

After a four-year spell on the pirate Radio Caroline `Baby` Bob Stewart (79) became the longest-serving disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg.

 

Les Reed (83) penned the 1965 hit `It`s not unusual` and the 1968 follow-up `Delilah` for Tom Jones and `The Last Waltz` for Englebert Humperdink. He did national service with the band of the Royal Est Kent Regiment and played piano on the original recording of the James Bond theme. He was responsible for two thousand songs as producer/arranger and more than five thousand recordings. Les Reed received the OBE in 1998 and was a Freeman of the City of London.

 

Ivor Broadis (96) was the oldest living former England International footballer. He played for Sunderland, Newcastle and Manchester City and teamed with Stanley Matthews, Bobby Charlton and Alex Ferguson. When England were beaten 7-1 by Hungary in 1954 he scored the consolatory goal. His fourteen caps were rewarded with a salary of £12 per week.

 

Sir Roger Moate (80) served for twenty-seven years as the Member of Parliament for Faversham. The right-wing Eurosceptic was one of forty-one Tories who voted against the Common Market in 1971. He established a reputation as a doughty fighter for the rights of his commuting constituents and gained notoriety over what became known as 1The War of Jennifer`s Ear` during tye1992 General Election campaign.

 

And Lyra McKee (29) was the investigative journalist murdered by the New IRA when gunmen opened fire on the police.

 

And Finally……

 

Tiger Woods, at the age of 43,has won the Masters’ golf tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, for the first time in 22 years .

And Tiger Roll ( no relation) ridden by Davy Russell and owned by Michael ‘ Ryanair’ O’Leary has won a successive Grand National for only the second time since Red Rum first pulled off the double in 1974.

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